Ricochet News

Motherwell School uses Science to Help Combat Plastic Pollution

By Courtenay Webster - Apr 8, 2020
Motherwell School uses Science to Help Combat Plastic Pollution

Port Elizabeth - Mfesane Secondary School in Motherwell conducted their first litter accumulation surveys on their school grounds, sorted through the waste and sent it off for recycling through the help of a large wirework coelacanth fish, also known as Munch.

Rolled out by local non-profit Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) and founded by siblings Jemima (aged 9) and Gabriel Reilly (aged 11), Munch is a recycling deposit that is moved around schools to help collect and sort waste at source before it ends up in the ocean.

In just two weeks of adopting the recycling deposit, the school’s environmental club learners filled Munch with litter from their school grounds.

“The Environmental club coordinator, founder and teacher, Ms Patricia Mapuma was very proud of the environmental club learners! Regardless of how busy they were with exams, that didn’t stop them from conducting waste accumulation surveys during breaktime,” said SST Head of Education Nozi Mbongwa.

Mfesane Secondary School became the first official school to join SST’s Munch on the Move training programme and adopt Munch for a month.

The aim of the Munch on the Move education programme is to measurably reduce plastic pollution on school grounds around Africa. This will be achieved by assessing the abundance and accumulation rates of plastic litter in schools, as well as monitoring changes over time.

Each week, the school conducted litter accumulation surveys on the school grounds over a period of three days. However, they could not complete week three surveys due to the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in school closures.

The litter collected was sorted using Munch, who is divided into five waste components: plastic caps, PET bottles, paper, HDPE plastic items and aluminium cans. The Waste Trade Company collected the recyclables and will pay the school for these items. Here are the results below:

White paper = 27 kg, aluminium cans = 6 kg, HDPE plastics = 6 kg PET plastic bottles = 12 kg, bottle caps = 5 kg, and lollipop sticks = 1 bag

“I really loved the dedication and commitment from Mfesane Secondary School learners, they really want to keep their school grounds clean. Munch was full in just two weeks; this has made me rethink the size of Munch. Some schools are in great need for infrastructure and bins to help them collect and separate their waste. We want to make a slightly bigger Munch for schools that don’t receive waste collection services,” said Mbongwa.

To evaluate if Munch could lead to increased awareness, SST conducted surveys with 150 children at the school before the project was introduced. The surveys will be used as a baseline to determine the amount of knowledge, understanding and awareness about plastic pollution at the school. SST will go back to the school to conduct follow up surveys and assess whether Munch proved to be effective.

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